Service delivery
October 22, 2013

Modernizing student aid

Labour intensive with slow response times, limited data and obsolete technology: that was the reality for Ontario’s Student Assistance Program (OSAP) five years ago. Now the picture is very different. OSAP is a fully automated, fast and paperless set of services that accumulates reliable, authoritative data and allows for evidence-based decision making.

In 2009, Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities undertook modernization of the services that provide funding to postsecondary students. A ministry team of policy, program design and delivery staff partnered with information and information technology (I&IT) members to fundamentally transform OSAP.

OSAP remains a complex system. It boasts 28 different loans, bursaries and grants worth $2.4 billion annually, and 70 different partners serving 600,000 students. Many attempts to modernize similar complex sets of services have encountered large hurdles that either reduce the scope from a fundamental transformation to local improvements, or lead to giving up on the entire initiative.

Yet the OSAP modernization successfully overhauled the program to a 21st century style of service delivery, on time and on budget.

Here are the five key practices that led to success – both in their execution and the result.

Ready for change
What jump-started the project this time? A strong leadership team of executives and willing operational managers who were ready for the rough road of significant change and motivated by the possibilities of a modern business model. The leadership was prepared to take risks, and put on-the-ground staff with the right combination of knowledge and technical expertise on the team to make it happen.

The resourcing model
I&IT in the Ontario public service uses a blended resourcing model where leaders and teams are fully in control of the direction of the initiative, including its direction, oversight, solution, quality control, requirement traceability and system integration. The resourcing model is augmented with expertise where it is needed from the vendor community. This model helped the OSAP team control spending within the initial approval, with no changes. The model does allow for changing business priorities. The project encountered two: launching the government’s first mobile app in 2009 and rolling out a new “30 percent off tuition” program in 2011.

Integrating the business and I&IT teams
Traditionally, program members are the subject matter experts and define the business model while I&IT builds the solution. On the OSAP project, common goals and clear performance metrics created a strong sense of trust on the team. I&IT offered ideas for process improvement or simplified workflows. Program experts demanded user experiences that met commercial standards. This openness to each other’s ideas and solutions and the sharing of risks and outcomes, regardless of the source, will be the norm in the new digital world.

Oversight/governance
Like it or not, you need discipline. Modernizing a complex business model, over a five-year period, with changing priorities is extremely difficult. Yet OSAP did it, on time and on budget. How?

• Project management, project management, project management. The team kept close tabs on daily activities, fluctuating workloads, multiple tasks and tight timelines.
• Keeping executives informed and engaged with frequent status updates, for both guidance and troubleshooting.
• Keeping on track: the course was corrected before things veered off the project path.
• Consulting and trusting each other’s judgment when priorities changed.

The solution was innovative
In the end, the OSAP modernization wasn’t about just one great change or solution. The technical platform has five components:

• 7,000 business rules stored in one external engine, in plain English instead of software code.
• Web content management and imaging for the equivalent of 40 million pages of documents.
• A workflow engine to reuse common services across the 28 different loans, bursaries and grants.
• Secure single sign-on for 2,000 financial aid administrators at colleges and universities.
• A reporting and business intelligence tool for decision-making at the government end.

As well, using an agile lifecycle methodology meant the team took an iterative approach to design, development and testing. Mistakes were caught early when they were easy to fix, in contrast to the old waterfall approach, where mistakes could result in significant revisions and associated cost overruns. Finally, project improvements were released in phases: the student facing application in 2010; the financial aid administrator portal in 2011; the mobile application, 30 percent off tuition and OSAP Express in 2012; the back-end processes in 2013.

Administrators and students in Ontario now have a full set of automated, modern services to support and deliver student aid. Facilitated continuous improvement and the ongoing business value of this project will continue to earn it high marks.

About this author

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Service delivery
 
In the show, J. Richard Jones talks with Colin Earp, Partner...
 
Leadership, service delivery, change management, performance measurement, big data, transparency, digital...
 
China’s Shenyang is traditionally an industrial city, but when work began...
 
In this episode of CGE Radio, J. Richard Jones talks with...
 
The Northern Federal Council (NFC) is a collaborative network of over...
 
We risk missing out on the potential “Artificial Intelligence” has to...
 
Tornado warnings broadcast a few weeks ago in Eastern Ontario and...
 
Everyone wants to change, become more efficient, and drive better value...
 
Artificial Intelligence is creating a great stir across many industries today....
 
In the spring of 2018, the Auditor General of Canada, Michael...
 
By June 2017, the Public Engagement Team at the Privy Council...
 
Everyone wants to change, become more efficient, and drive better value...
 
In July 2017, a local company unveiled a “virtual statue” on...
 
In 2016, the community of Fort McMurray, Alberta, located in the...
 
In this episode of CGE Radio, J. Richard Jones speaks with...
 
We are excited to share with you the latest issue of...
 
Welcome to the era of Smart Cities where connectivity will drive...
 
In this episode, J. Richard Jones sits down with Martin Joyce,...
 
Over half a billion children live in countries that are falling...
 
According to a recent McKinsey study there is a potential for...
 
As Executive Director of the UK’s Government Digital Service, Mike Bracken...
 
Having a clear definition of success is one of the key...
 
Public servants are responsible for providing advice and support to the...
 
Public sector managers from all levels of government across Canada increasingly...
 
With businesses and government agencies increasingly operating in a highly information-based...
 
Blockchain. There’s probably no other technology trend in recent years that...
 
Rankings of public sector entities has been big trend for quite...
 
In March, the Canada Revenue Agency’s website was shut down by...
 
The latest issue of Canadian Government Executive is currently available. Some...
 
The association representing more than 42,000 physicians and medical students in...
 
As Toronto’s city staff prepares top release proposed regulations for taxis...
 
In the face of mounting public support for supervised injection sites,...
 
It appears it was not just the Mounties that were affected...
 
Last year, the Canada Revenue Agency rolled out a pilot program...
 
There’s a lot of noise out there about digital government. Yet...
 
Somewhat surprisingly in light of ongoing budget constraints at all levels...
 
commentEmail””:””thomk@rogers.com”” Related posts: Can our system survive digital...
 
There are many reasons why governments should move to a citizen...
 
Governments around the world are integrating services as a means of...
 
The New Zealand government and public service went through major reforms...
 
The government of Langford, British Columbia, received last week the 2014...
 
Since 1998, the Institute for Citizen-Centred Service has been conducting Citizens...
 
Labour intensive with slow response times, limited data and obsolete technology:...
 
As the only official bilingual province, with a third of its...
 
The government of Nova Scotia has introduced a Seniors Navigators Program,...
 
Like all provinces, Nova Scotia is grappling with transforming the way...
 
Yesterday the Globe and Mail reported that the federal government hopes...
 
The drive to contain costs within the public sector will likely...
 
ServiceOntario has helped change the way the Ontario government serves people...
 
In 2012, two major initiatives changed the face of Ontario’s Student...
 
On December 6, Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak released a...
 
There is little doubt that a crisis of relevance has hit...
 
The PrimesChris McGoffJohn Wiley, 241 pages, $35.95 As the World Bank...
 
Long, long ago when the world and government service delivery concepts...
 
Government citizen-centred service delivery is undergoing a re-think. The growing number...
 
More than 15 years ago, the Ontario government implemented a model...
 
The P3 model is different from traditional procurement: it transfers significant...
 
For First Nations, a child’s birth must be registered before parents...
 
That Alberta Works office reflects a philosophical shift that has transformed...
 
On March 29th, the federal government brought down one of the...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.5 May 2007 In late 2004, the Ontario Public...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.4 April 2007 Western countries and institutions have for...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.5 May 2007 Ontario is striving to achieve its...
 
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment is in the midst of significant...
 
A recent study conducted in the Ontario public service elaborates our...
 
As the Internet has grown and evolved, so too has the...
 
While most North Americans today have a limited experience with trains,...
 
Leadership of public sector organizations is one of Canada’s most important...
 
La Commonwealth Association of Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) a décerné...
 
Le Groupe d’experts indépendant sur les subventions et contributions prône un...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.9 November 2007 There is a resurgence of quality...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.8 October 2007 Ron McKerlie is Ontario’s Corporate Chief...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.7 September 2007 Governments and their public service organizations...
 
Quote of the week “‘Deliverology’ challenged government to be both clear...
 
Quote of the week “We expected, and found, a negative depiction...
 
Quote of the week “…governments bear responsibility for producing public value.”...
 
Essentially, the Office asked in its audit whether the Australian Public...
 
Les services généraux ou ministériels ont souvent du mal, surtout dans...
 
Corporate services branches, particularly in small organizations, often have difficulty balancing...
 
« Les différents intervenants au Canada n’arrivent tout simplement pas à bien...
 
The Civil Service Commission was created in September 1908 to eradicate...
 
The past decade has given rise to tremendous experimentation in public...
 
À vos yeux, quels sont les plus grands défis de l’IAPC?...
 
The tragedy of the E. coli outbreak in Walkerton in 2000...
 
“Help wanted” has again become a common sight in windowsills and...
 
Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport is poised to...
 
A short 18 months ago, the Ontario Public Service made its...
 
For leaders, the biggest challenge to improving public sector service delivery...
 
The Public Sector Service Delivery Council (PSSDC) is a coalition of...
 
Government services around the world face the following challenge: how to...
 
"Oh, the land of cloudless days," Willie Nelson croons in one...
 
Quand Willie Nelson vante les charmes d’une contrée sans nuages dans...
 
According to the people who know it best – its residents...
 
La prestation de services à guichet unique fait maintenant partie intégrante...
 
This article considers emerging and possible future developments through four windows...
 
By 2017, visible minorities will make up almost 29 percent of...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
In the show, J. Richard Jones talks with Colin Earp, Partner...